On a Special Night for Sonny Dykes, Cal Bears Break Losing Streak


When the California Golden Bears and the Oregon State Beavers met on Saturday night at Kabam Field, the game was a little more special for Cal, and especially so for their head coach, Sonny Dykes. The Bears were holding their second annual “Cal Fights Alzheimer’s” game, where shirts and wristbands were handed out to help raise awareness for the disease. Cal’s uniforms were also emblazoned with an “#ENDALZ” patch.

The game meant a little more to coach Dykes, whose personal life has been affected deeply by the heart-wrenching disease. His mother, Sharon, battled through Alzheimer’s for more than two decades before passing away on November 29th, 2010, when Dykes was the head coach at Louisiana Tech.

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With heavy hearts and a purpose in mind, the Cal Bears snapped their four-game losing streak with a 54-24 win over a downtrodden Beavers’ team, whose own losing streak extended to seven games, their longest in a single season since 1995, when they dropped the final 10 games of the season. With six wins on their record, the Bears are now bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. They also snapped a seven-game losing streak with eligibility on the line. The Bears lost the final three games last season when they had a chance to go bowling, and then dropped four straight this year after winning five in a row to open the game.

Both teams came out of the gates slowly. Oregon State won the coin toss and received, but after picking up one first down, would punt. On Cal’s first possession, quarterback Jared Goff threw three passes, but all ended up incomplete and Cal would also punt away.

The scoring didn’t begin until Cal’s third drive, when Goff found his favorite target, Kenny Lawler for a four-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. Lawler was playing despite being limited in practice all week with a bruised buttock. The touchdown was set up by a beautiful 54-yard strike to receiver Trevor Davis, who was pulled down by his jersey at the four-yard line.

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Goff would throw another touchdown, the second coming on a 45-yard screen pass to Tre Watson, who reversed field and used some fancy maneuvering to get into the endzone. Running back Vic Enwere added another touchdown, powering in to the endzone from a yard out, and the Bears took a 24-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.

In the second half, Goff came out firing. On the opening drive, he hit Darius Powe, Jr. for his third touchdown throw of the game, and then found Maurice Harris twice for touchdowns before the fourth quarter began. In the final frame, Goff hit 300-pound freshman fullback Malik McMorris for an 11-yard score, giving the monster frosh his first touchdown.

After one of the worst performances of his college career, Goff bounced back with one of his best. He completed less than half of his pass attempts against the Oregon Ducks for the first time in his career, but against the Beavers, he threw six touchdowns for the second time and crossed the 400-yard mark for the sixth time. Overall, Goff finished the game with 26 completions on 37 attempts, 453 yards, and six touchdowns.

A rough season continued for senior running back Daniel Lasco. He came out strong, carrying the ball four times for 38 yards on the second drive of the game, but would leave with an ankle injury and not return. Injuries have derailed Lasco’s season, as he missed a couple of games, and was limited in a few more, earlier in the year with a hip muscle strain.

In Lasco’s stead, a trio of backs picked up the slack with gusto. Enwere received the lion’s share of the carries, getting 16 for 89 yards and a score, but Tre Watson was the big play guy. The sophomore gained 110 yards on 10 carries, surpassing the century mark for the first time in his young career. Junior Khalfani Muhammad also took eight handoffs, and picked up 62 yards. The team’s 307 rushing yards marked a season-high, and was their first 300-yard rushing game since October 13th, 2012 against Washington State.

The Bears magic formula continued. They crossed 30 points scoring for the sixth time this year, and pushed their record to 6-0 when doing so. When Cal fails to score at least 30, they are winless in four games.

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It was a special night for the Bears’ head coach, and it became a little more special with this victory. For the first time in the Dykes era, Cal has qualified for a Bowl game. The team won six games in his first two years combined, and in 2013, Dykes’ first year, suffered through a miserable 1-11 season.

With that behind them, the Bears now set their sights on the Big Game, as next week, they travel to Stanford for a matchup with the Cardinal, looking to win back the axe.